Under 'mutual agreement,' official leaves Westlake school

WESTLAKE -- For the second year in a row, Westlake Academy officials have cut ties with one of the top administrators at the charter school.

Mark Garcia, head of secondary school during the 2009-10 school year, left in a "mutual agreement," said Thomas Brymer, Westlake's town manager and the school's chief executive officer.

The decision was made after officials determined that a planned restructuring of campus leadership from two to three principals was too expensive for the 485-student school, Brymer said.

"We are a fairly small school. We are not in a position to afford three heads of section," he said Tuesday. "Like every school, we have our challenges. We have a finite amount of resources and we have to prioritize. We're trying to focus on making sure all the resources as possible go toward instruction."

But in his June 8 resignation letter to Brymer, Garcia wrote that he "was surprised at the need to cut my position." In his letter, Garcia said he had "full expectation of employment" after a May 11 discussion with Brymer and a memo that Brymer sent to the community.

In that memo, a May 14 special edition of the campus newsletter, the WA Parents' Communiqué, Brymer had noted new job duties for Garcia for the next school year.

As head of secondary school, Garcia had been one of two principals responsible for academic programs for grades seven through 12. Next year, Garcia was to focus on the school's "diploma programme" for grades 11 and 12, Brymer wrote.

In addition, Brymer wrote that the academy had hired Rod Harding to head the Middle Years Programme, grades seven through 10. He also announced that Jamie Schmitz, who had resigned from his position as head of the Primary Years Programme, would return to the school in his same role.

In a Tuesday e-mail, Garcia said he had no comment on his departure. But in his resignation letter, dated June 8, Garcia wrote, "I do understand the budgetary pressures currently under consideration with the Board, making my position untenable."

Westlake Academy is allowed to terminate Garcia's employment contract for several reasons, including mutual agreement and "lack of funding for the position of Head of Secondary in the budget" for the school, according to the document.

Westlake Mayor Laura Wheat, who serves as school board president, declined to comment, referring questions to Brymer.

Garcia, who earned $80,000 annually, has left the campus but will be paid through July, Brymer said.

Brymer said Tuesday that he did not consider Garcia's planned job duty changes for next year a demotion because he was to be given additional "commensurate" responsibilities, including overseeing extracurricular programs.

Last summer, Westlake eliminated its head of school.

JESSAMY BROWN, 817-390-7326